Where did we get all this stuff?


Boxes are everywhere. They pile, empty, tossed randomly in a corner of the living room but spilling out toward the door, the couch, everywhere. Boxes of books are stacked in the office, pushed aside, in a “deal with later” stack that’s way too big. Boxes line the wall of my bedroom, sit on my kitchen floor.

And I’m wondering: where did all this stuff come from? Since when did two people and two ferrets need so many things to fill so many boxes?

There’s nothing quite like moving to make you re-examine your priorities, what’s important and what’s not. Carefully packing my great-grandmother’s silver in blue felt bags, I ask again – is this worth carrying from house to house, polishing every few months when the tarnish spreads across the surface, lingers in crevices?

I hesitate there, in the packing, and remember her in her last years of health, sharing her faith to the boy on the airplane seat next to her, warning us, just small children, on hygiene and the proper chewing of peanuts and strawberry seeds for the ultimate digestion of vitamins. I remember her best in her sunset years, as she hung on to life despite her frailty until her late 90s. I remember how she’d fall querulous, too tired to eat, then smile so graciously at whomever was pushing yet another bite toward her.

I remember reciting memory verses those months she lived with us; and I close the lid on one box and pull over another. The silver’s worth keeping.

I put the duvet and matching pillow shams I made between high school and college in the “throw-away” pile; the duvet’s a twin and I don’t have a bed that size and I never use the shams so why keep them? But then they migrate back into a box because they’re the work of my needle-pricked hands and I’m not ready to let them go.

But by the time I’ve reached box number 10 of books I start thinking that our own personal library does not need to be this large, gorged with books we ought to read but probably never will, books that are gathering dust on the public library’s shelves should we ever actually decide to crack one open.

His G.A. Henty collection takes up two boxes alone; relics of a boyhood gone by that wait with his athletic trophies and debate awards and AWANA Sparkies vest for children not yet born. My hardbacked, Barnes and Noble classic works take up another; I still promise myself I’ll read them all one of these days.

And so it goes. Almost everything has a reason; compared to so many other households we are well within reason, eliminating clutter as it forms, tossing anything we haven’t used in a while in the Good-will bag for next week’s errands day.

And by the time the boxes are gone and the stuff stashed away in closets or hung on walls and everything has its home again, I won’t think we have that much, really. Just enough to make our home comfortable and my wardrobe varied, I’ll think. We’re quite the minimalistic couple, I’ll boast silently.

Until we move again. And a mountain of boxes glares back at me, and I wonder again: how do two people and two ferrets ever use this much stuff?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Where did we get all this stuff?

  1. Vicki Daniels

    Beautifully written! I love your reasoning process. As someone who has moved many times and has sat among many boxes and questioned and remembered, I really relate:).

  2. Bonnie

    I never think I have much stuff either, until the end of the year comes and I have to carry everything downstairs to take home.

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